Gospel Records of Jesus’ Birth

Question: How did the Gospel writers get records of Jesus' birth? I understand how the Gospels record writings of things Christ did or things he taught the disciples and all his followers. I know how these are first hand accounts or taken from those who had first hand accounts. My question is, there are many events in Scripture where no one was present to witness the event, such as the Annunciation but especially the Magnificat, the Visitation, what Elizabeth said, the birth of Jesus, etc. So, where did the knowledge of these events and the actual quotations come from?

Discussion: To backtrack a bit for the benefit of other readers, Bible scholars generally agree that the book of Mark gives us our oldest Gospel and the primary source for many eye-witness accounts. Other Gospel writers probably drew from that material then added their own encounters, but as you mentioned, none of them — not even Mark — could have witnessed some of the events, such as Jesus' birth. However, Mary would have.

 In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 1 verse 3 tells us the physician had been "investigating everything accurately anew," which indicates that Luke took the diagnostic approach of a well-trained doctor. In addition, Luke seems to have taken on a role similar to that of today's  investigative reporter. Very likely, his work included careful note-taking of the questions he posed or conversations he had with reliable eye witnesses. Surely, too, at some point in time, Luke would have wanted to interview Jesus' Mother.

Not only did Mary know her Son better than anyone else on earth could, she was with Jesus at every major event in his life. When other followers ran away and hid, she stood at the foot of the cross with no apparent concern for her own life. Mary was there. She was focused. She was spirit-filled and brave — from the moment of Jesus' conception to his ascension into heaven, but most certainly at his birth and other events you mentioned.

Because of her faith, strength, and character, Mary would have made the ideal eye-witness on whom Luke could rely to present an accurate account of the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. In our search for the truth, we, too, can rely on Jesus' Mother and the guidance of the Holy Spirit who filled her very being with the Lord. So, as we prepare for the New Year, let's consider Mary our example for giving ourselves more fully to God. For instance, we might begin thinking and praying about ways to answer this important question: "Remember The Sabbath?" Lord willing, we'll have opportunity to discuss that topic in the next Bible Talk.

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